Update from Appalachian State University
This week has proven to be a busy and exciting start to the semester!
With the new year, our electric utility, New River Light and Power, has entered into a new energy supplier contract, allowing the university to immediately increase its purchased electricity from renewable sources. We are also finalizing an agreement with Blue Ridge Energy to convert additional purchased electricity, including for Levine Hall, to 100% solar. In total, these changes will increase our purchased electricity from 2% to 18.2% renewables. This is a significant step toward meeting the goals in our Climate Action Plan. As I have mentioned in previous messages, we are committed to reducing our use of fossil fuels and these are important strides forward. We will continue these efforts as we advance our work toward carbon neutrality.
Monday brought an opportunity to celebrate campus and community leaders in diversity, equity and inclusion at the 2022 Chancellor’s Awards for Inclusive Excellence Luncheon. It was an honor to shine a light on these individuals, whose work demonstrates an active, intentional and ongoing commitment to transformative change at App State and in the surrounding community:
- Faculty Award: Dr. Jamie Levine, associate professor in the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences.
- Community Award: Yolanda Adams, family resource coordinator for Watauga County Schools.
- Undergraduate Student Award: Chandler Smith, a senior nutrition and foods major.
- Graduate Student Award: Eris Jenkins, a graduate student majoring in student affairs administration.
- Staff Award: Lamont Sellers, director of intercultural student affairs.
- Department Award: University Housing, represented by Dr. Brandon Nelson, interim director of university housing.
The event featured an awards presentation and an inspiring keynote address by entrepreneur, advocate and artist Monique Johnson. It was an uplifting beginning to a new year and a new semester. Thank you to the Office of Diversity, the Inclusive Excellence Awards Working Group, Intercultural Student Affairs and the award selection committee for their help bringing this event to fruition.
On Tuesday, Jan. 18, App State will host its 37th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration. We look forward to welcoming CNN political analyst, author and former Representative from South Carolina Bakari Sellers for a presentation in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts.
The new year has brought many changes to COVID-19 guidance, much of which was addressed in messages sent to campus last week. Our COVID operations team has been in regular communication with state and local public health experts, as well as UNC System leadership, to ensure we have the latest information and data available to assess the rapidly changing situation with the Omicron variant, in particular. In addition to our partners at our local health department, I would also like to thank Dr. Alex Howard, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Director of Wellness and Prevention Services for the Division of Student Affairs, for his guidance.
The information we have received from these local and campus public health experts indicates:
- While the Omicron variant is very infectious, early data indicate it causes less severe disease than previous variants in vaccinated individuals who do not have underlying health conditions. That said, it should still be taken seriously.
- Vaccines remain the best protection against serious COVID symptoms, and public health experts stress the importance of getting vaccinated, and boosted when eligible, to increase your immunity against current and possible future variants.
- Tuesday’s data update will show an increase in case counts over the low numbers reported at the end of last semester, which was prior to the surge in Omicron variant cases. We expect to continue seeing an increase in cases; however, we also expect to continue seeing milder cases, as our vaccination rates continue to increase, and as those eligible continue getting boosted. There are no App State students, faculty or staff in the local hospital system.
- If you are feeling unwell or if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID, please be sure to get tested and follow CDC isolation/quarantine guidelines. App State has and will continue to provide walk-in, free COVID testing for faculty, staff and students at testing clinics three times each week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. For students who have COVID symptoms, testing is also available at the university’s Student Health Service clinic. Utilizing these campus testing options helps lessen the burden on our local public health and local health care systems.
- Well-fitted face coverings also continue to be an effective tool in lessening the spread of COVID and are currently required indoors on campus. Please be sure you are properly wearing an effective face covering over your nose and mouth. The UNC School of Medicine offers guidance in this regard, and the CDC provides these guidelines for selecting, cleaning and storing face coverings.
As part of these conversations, we have also undertaken a review and assessment of our university COVID data dashboard, which will be updated on Tuesday, to ensure we begin our reporting for the semester with a full week of data. Our dashboard updates will reflect the advice and direction of local public health experts, as well as Dr. Howard, in consideration of the progression of the COVID situation, and the Omicron variant and its expected impact.
With a forecast for winter weather this weekend, our response teams are preparing to keep our campus safe and maintain continuity of our critical services. Our Facilities Operations team will begin treating our parking lots this afternoon, and will be working steadily to keep our parking lots clear of snow and ice. Please assist them by relocating your vehicles to covered parking areas as requested this morning, and remember to check your email over the weekend for updates regarding campus operations.
Thank you for your diligent adherence to campus COVID safety standards, which helps ensure continuity in our teaching, research and service. App State has a brighter, more sustainable and inclusive future ahead because of the hard work and dedication of our entire university community.
Sheri Everts, Chancellor